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CHICAGO NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
Volume 34 DECEMBER 30, 1953 No. 24
AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES OF YEMEN
KARL P. SCHMIDT
CHIEF CURATOR, DEPARTMENT OF ZOOLOGY
The collections of amphibians and reptiles made in the Kingdom
of Yemen by the United States Medical Mission in 1951 considerably
increase the list of species of these groups on record from this little-
known region. Some account of the work of the mission and its
itinerary is given in the paper on the mammals and their ectopara-
sites by Messrs. Sanborn and Hoogstraal (1953), and Mr. Hoog-
straal has published a popular account of his visit to Yemen (1952).
Yemen, the Kingdom of the Queen of Sheba in ancient times, has
been almost completely closed to foreigners through much of its
history. After alternations of Egyptian, Abyssinian, Arab, and
Turkish rule, Yemen became an independent kingdom after World
War I, in 1918. Diplomatic relations with the United States were
not established until 1946. The need for advice concerning matters
of public health led to the invitation to foreign medical missions to
come to the country. Chicago Natural History Museum is indebted
to the United States Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3, in Cairo,
Egypt, for this collection and the privilege of reporting on it.
The earliest mention of Yemen in herpetological literature ap-
pears to be that of Forskal (1775), who had joined Carsten Niebuhr's
expedition to the borders of the Red Sea in 1761. Forskal's Des-
criptiones animalium includes an appendix on Arabian materia
medica, but in this, I am sure, the direction of flow of medical
knowledge or, perhaps better, of medical misinformation, was to
the western countries and not into Arabia. Forskal describes two
species of snakes from Yemen itself, Coluber schokari (= Psammophis
schokari) and Coluber dhara (=Telescopus dhara).
The first medical mission to Yemen with a by-product of herpe-
tological collections was that of Captain Emilio Dubbiosi, of the
Medical Corps of the Italian Army. He was stationed at San'a
from August to October, 1928, and from March to July, 1929. The
reptiles obtained by Captain Dubbiosi were reported upon by Scor-
No. 727 253
JAN 1 3 'i
DIVERSITY OF HLJNO*
FIELDIANA: ZOOLOGY, VOLUME 34
- ROUTE OF US. NAVAL
ETHIOPIA^ ;*_. J FRENCH
FIG. 43. Map of Yemen, showing localities mentioned in text.
tecci (1932). The only mention of reptiles from Yemen between
1775 and 1932 that has come to my attention is the short description
of a specimen of Chamaeleo calyptratus by John Anderson (1896).
An entomological party from the British Museum in 1937-38
made important collections, which included a small lot of reptiles
reported upon by H. W. Parker (1941). By far the best account of
Yemen available is the book In the High Yemen by Hugh Scott,
leader of the expedition, with distinguished illustrations from photo-
graphs by the author and his companion, Everard B. Britton.
SCHMIDT: AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES OF YEMEN 255
The collections of the United States Naval Medical Mission
amount to twenty-seven species, of which eighteen are new to the
Yemen list. There is little faunal distinction to be expected between
Yemen and the Aden Protectorate; but the mountains of Yemen
rise to greater heights, with a correspondingly broader temperate
zone. Some northern forms might well find their southern limits
in these mountains.
It is at first puzzling to note the lack of correspondence between
Scortecci's list of species and the present one; his list of fourteen
species of snakes and one lizard and our list of three amphibians,
eighteen lizards, and five snakes overlap only with the sand snake,
Psammophis schokari. Captain Dubbiosi collected in spring and
fall, and Mr. Hoogstraal and Lieutenant Kuntz were in the country
only in January and February. The snakes were evidently largely
in hibernation during those months, while the mid-day sun brought
out the lizards.
The relation between the fauna of Yemen and that of Eritrea,
on opposite sides of the southern Red Sea, is not as close as might
be expected. In Scortecci's list of the reptiles of Eritrea, amounting
to 52 species (1928), only eleven species (six snakes and five lizards)
are represented in both countries, usually by distinct subspecies.
Even with the inclusion of the Aden fauna only three additional
species are added to the list in common. It may well be that the
relation of the herpetological fauna of southwestern Arabia is with
Somaliland rather than with Eritrea. A critical review of these
faunal relations cannot be undertaken in the present paper. Parker
(1941) has commented on the complexity of the Arabian fauna.
Bufo orientalis Werner
Bufo ciridis var. orientalis Werner, 1895, Verb. zool. bot. Ges. Wein, 45:
20 Maskat, Arabia.
Bufo orientalis Parker, 1941, Brit. Mus. Exped. S. W. Arabia 1937-8, 1: 6.
The abundant common toad of the Yemen is represented by 150
specimens from Ta'izz; El Amra (10 km. north of Ta'izz) ; 48 km. east
of 'Obal; Wadi Siham (64 km. east of 'Obal); 8 km. west of Ma'bar;
Wadi Mal-el-Ghail, 13 km. west of Ma'bar; and San'a. I find no
differences between the toads of Ta'izz (4,100 ft. alt.) and San'a
(7,100 ft. alt.). The flattened and relatively obscure parotoid gland
256 FIELDIANA: ZOOLOGY, VOLUME 34
distinguishes orientalis from Bufo regularis, which is to be expected
in Yemen but was not obtained by the Hoogstraal party.
Hyla arborea savignyi Audouin
Hyla savignyi Audouin, 1827, Descr. Egypte, Kept., Suppl., pi. 2, fig. 13
Hyla arborea savignyi Mertens, 1924, Abh. Ber. Mus. Magdeburg, 3: 356.
Forty-two specimens, from San'a and from 8 km. west of Ma'bar.
Rana cyanophlyctis ehrenbergi Peters
Rana ehrenbergi Peters, 1863, Monatsber. Akad. Wiss. Berlin, 1863: 79
Rana cyanophlyctis ehrenbergi Parker, 1941, Brit. Mus. Exped. S. W. Arabia
1937-8, 1: 5.
Sixty specimens from Wadi Siham, near 'Obal; Wadi Rissian,
below Hagda; Tai'zz (in the King's swimming pool); Ma'bar; about
13 km. west of Ma'bar, at the Wadi Mal-el-Ghail; and at Birket-el-
Stenodactylus pulcher Anderson
Stenodactylus (Ceramodactylus) pulcher Anderson, 1896, Contr. Herpet. Arabia,
p. 19 the Hadramut.
A single specimen, from a locality 8 km. east of Hodeida, near
sea level. Caught among hummocks at night.
Pristurus crucifer Valenciennes
Gymnodactylus crucifer Valenciennes, 1861, C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris, 52: 433
Pristurus crucifer Boulenger, 1885, Cat. Lizards Brit. Mus., 1: 55.
Three specimens from Hodeida, among sand hummocks in the
Pristurus rupestris rupestris Blanford
Pristurus rupestris Blanford, 1874, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist., (4), 13: 454
Muscat and Island of Karrack near Busheer, Persian Gulf.
Sixty-eight specimens from San'a; Ma'bar; 8 km. west of Ma'bar;
Wadi Mal-el-Ghail; and Ta'izz.
My supposition, in distinguishing the Iranian rupestris as sub-
species iranicus, that the rupestris of the Arabian coast had unspotted
SCHMIDT: AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES OF YEMEN 257
throats was based on Blanford's description of his Muscat specimens.
This is wholly erroneous so far as the present specimens from the
southwestern corner of Arabia are concerned. This series, however,
is readily distinguished from iranicus in that the throat maculation
consists of more or less transverse lines or bars, the throat spots of
iranicus being round, with none confluent even into short bars.
Ptyodactylus hasselquisti hasselquisti Donndorff
Lacerta hasselquistii Donndorff, 1789, Zool. Beytr., 3: 133 Palestine (restr.
Ptyodactylus hasselquistii hasselquistii Schmidt, 1939, Field Mus. Nat. Hist.,
Zool. Ser., 24: 56.
One specimen from about 48 km. east of 'Obal, taken on the
side of a cliff near a river.
Hemidactylus turcicus turcicus Linnaeus
Lacerta turcica Linnaeus, 1758, Syst. Nat., ed. 10, p. 202 Turkey.
Hemidactylus turcicus turcicus Mertens, 1925, Abh. Senck. Naturf. Ges., 39: 60.
Four specimens from San 'a, one from a house, three from be-
neath rocks in fields.
Hemidactylus flaviviridis Riippell
Hemidactylus flaviviridis Riippell, 1835, Neue Wirbelthiere Abyssiniens,
Amph., p. 18, pi. 6, fig. 2 Massaua Island, Eritrea.
Two specimens collected at Ta'izz, in a rest house.
Hemidactylus yerburyi Anderson
Hemidactylus yerburyi Anderson, 1895, Proc. Zool. Soc. London, 1895: 630,
640, pi. 36, fig. 1 Lahej and Haithalhim.
Thirteen specimens, eleven collected at Ta'izz and two at
Agama adramitana Anderson
Agama adramitana Anderson, 1896, Contr. Herpet. Arabia, p. 31 between
Makalla and the Hadramut Valley.
Seventy-one specimens, all collected at Ta'izz except two, which
are from San 'a, where the common large agama is cyanogaster.
Agama cyanogaster Riippell
StelUo cyanogaster Riippell, Neue Wirbelthiere Abyssiniens, Rept., p. 10
258 FIELDIANA: ZOOLOGY, VOLUME 34
Twenty-one specimens, all from San'a except three, which are
Agama isolepis Boulenger
Agama isolepis Boulenger, 1885, Cat. Lizards Brit. Mus., 1: 342 "From
Egypt to Sind." Here restricted to Deh Bid, north of Shiraz, Iran.
Three specimens from Ta'izz, taken on rock walls in town.
Acanthodactylus boskianus asper Audouin
Lacerta aspera Audouin, 1827, Descr. Egypte, Kept., Suppl., p. 173, pi. 1,
fig. 9 Egypt.
Acanthodactylus boskianus var. asper Lataste, 1885, Ann. Mus. Geneva, (2),
Ninety-four specimens, from Ta'izz and Hodeida.
Eremias guttulata guttulata Lichtenstein
Lacerta guttulata Lichtenstein, 1823, Verz. Doubl. Mus. Berlin, p. 101 Egypt.
Eremias guttulata guttulata Wettstein, 1928, Sitzber. Akad. Wiss. Wien (math.-
natur.), 137, Abt.. I, p. 782.
Seventy-one specimens, from Ta'izz, San'a, and Ma'bar.
Latastia longicaudata andersoni Boulenger
Latostia longicaudata var. andersonii Boulenger, 1921, Monogr. Lacertidae,
p. 30 southwestern Arabia.
A single specimen was taken in a field at Ma'bar.
Philochortus neunianni Matschie
Philochortus neumanni Matschie, 1893, Sitzber. Ges. Naturf. Freunde Berlin,
1893: 30 Aden.
A single specimen was collected on a rock wall in Ta'izz.
Mabuya tessellata Anderson
Mabuia tessellata Anderson, 1895, Proc. Zool. Soc. London, 1895: 636, pi. 36,
fig. 2 Aden.
Two specimens were collected on rock walls in Ta'izz.
Scincus hemprichi Wiegmann
Scincus hemprichii Wiegmann, 1837, Arch. Naturg., 3: 128 Abyssinia.
A single specimen from Hodeida was caught among sand hum-
mocks at night.
SCHMIDT: AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES OF YEMEN 259
Chalcides ocellatus ocellatus Forskal
Lacerta ocellata Forskal, 1775, Descr. Anim., p. 13 Egypt.
Chalcides ocellatus ocellatus Wettstein, 1928, Sitzber. Akad. Wiss. Wien (math.-
natur.), 137, Abt. I, p. 784.
Three specimens, from Ta'izz and Bajil.
Chamaeleo calyptratus Dume'ril and Dume'ril
Chamaeleo calyptratus Dumril and Dumeril, 1851, Cat. Meth. Kept., p. 31
no locality; Anderson, 1896, Contr. Herpet. Arabia, p. 62 Yemen.
Chamaeleo calcarifer Peters, 1870, Monatsber. Akad. Wiss. Berlin, 1870: 110
Bembatuka, west coast of Madagascar, in errore, corrected to Aden, Arabia.
Fifty-four specimens, all from Ta'izz. With this large series at
hand, Anderson's suggestion that calcarifer Peters is a synonym of
calyptratus Dume'ril and Dume'ril seems to be amply confirmed.
Chamaeleo chamaeleon chamaeleon Linnaeus
Lacerta chamaeleon Linnaeus, 1758, Syst. Nat., ed. 10, p. 204 Africa and Asia
(restr. to Jerusalem, Palestine).
Chamaeleon chamaeleon chamaeleon Werner, 1911, Das Tierreich, 27: 10.
Chamaeleo chamaeleon chamaeleon Mertens and Muller, 1929, Zool. Anz., 84:
Mertens and Muller restrict the type locality of this species to
"North Africa." I much prefer Jerusalem as the type locality,
since in 1758 Linnaeus must have had fresh Palestinian specimens
at hand collected by his pupil Hasselquist, whose Iter Palestinum
he had prepared for publication in 1757. Employing Jerusalem as
the type locality does not alter the current nomenclature. The
occurrence of the common chameleon in Yemen helps to connect
its range with that of the Arabian subspecies orientalis, but our
single specimen is insufficient for definite subspecific identification.
Leptotyphlops nursi Anderson
Glaucoma nursii Anderson, 1896, in Boulenger, Cat. Snakes Brit. Mus., 3:
Leptotyphlops nursi Parker, 1938, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist., (11), 1: 488.
Leptotyphlops yemenicus Scortecci, 1933, Atti Soc. Ital. Sci. Nat., 72: 165
Five specimens from Ta'izz, found in rubbish in town.
The length of these specimens varies from 120 to 184 mm., the
tail length is uniformly 0.08 of the total, and the diameter of the
260 FIELDIANA: ZOOLOGY, VOLUME 34
body is contained in the total length from 61 to 82 times (aver. 71).
The correspondence of the Aden fauna with that of the Yemen is
so complete that I have no hesitation in referring Leptotyphlops
yemenicus to nursi.
Boaedon lineatus arabicus Parker
Boaedon arabicus Parker, 1930, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist., (10), 6: 596 El Kubar,
Amiri Country, S. W. Arabia.
Boaedon lineatus arabicus Parker, 1941, Brit. Mus. Exped. S. W. Arabia, 1:
4 Jebel Harir, 5,000 feet alt., West Aden Protectorate.
A single specimen, locality unknown, a female, has 240 ventrals,
anal undivided, 49 caudals, and dorsal scale rows 27-33-21. The
head is crushed.
Coluber rhodorhachis rhodorhachis Jan
Zamenis rhodorhachis Jan, 1865, in de Filippi, Viagg. Pers., p. 356 Iran.
Coluber rhodorhachis Parker, 1931, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist., (10), 8: 516.
Two male specimens, one from Hodeida, the other from San 'a.
The Hodeida specimen has ventrals 221, caudals 137, and dorsal
scales 19-19-13. In the San'a specimen the ventrals are 226, caudals
133, and dorsals 19-19-11.
Psammophis schokari Forskal
Coluber schokari Forskal, 1775, Descr. Anim., p. 14 Yemen.
Psammophis schokari Boulenger, 1896, Cat. Snakes Brit. Mus., 3: 157.
Psammophis sibilans schokari Loveridge, 1940, Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool., 87: 24.
Four female specimens, two from Hodeida, one from Wadi Mal-
el-Ghail, about 13 km. west of Ma'bar, and one from Ta'izz. In
these specimens the ventrals range from 174 to 190. The caudals
are 151 in a Hodeida specimen; the others have incomplete tails.
If schokari and sibilans are to be regarded as subspecifically
related, no geographic partition is discernible, and it appears to be
Loveridge's assumption (loc. cit.) that this is a genuine case of a
pair of subspecies held separate by adjustment to distinct habitats.
Bitis arietans Merrem
Bitis (Echidna) arietans Merrem, 1820, Tent. Syst. Amphib., p. 152 Cape
of Good Hope.
Bitis arietans Boulenger, 1896, Cat. Snakes Brit. Mus., 3: 493.
Two specimens from Ta'izz.
SCHMIDT: AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES OF YEMEN 261
1896. A chameleon from Yemen in the Cairo Museum, pp. 62-63 in ANDERSON,
A contribution to the herpetology of Arabia .... London, Porter. 122 pp.
1775. Descriptiones animalium ayium, amphibiorum, piscium, insectorum,
vermium; quae in itinere orientali observavit Petrus Forskal. Haun [Copen-
hagen], Moller. 164 pp., 1 map.
1952. Yemen opens the door to progress. American scientists visit this Arabian
land at the invitation of its king to improve the health of his people. Nat.
Geog. Mag., 101: 213-244, illus.
PARKER, H. W.
1941. Reptiles and amphibians. Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Exped. S. W. Arabia,
1937-8, 1: 3-6.
SANBORN, COLIN CAMPBELL, and HOOGSTRAAL, HARRY
1953. Some mammals of Yemen and their ectoparasites. Fieldiana, Zool., 34:
1928. Rettili dell' Eritrea esistenti nelle collezioni del Museo Civico di Milano.
Atti Soc. Ital. Sci. Nat., 67: 290-339, pis. 7-9, text figs. 1-8.
1932. Rettili dello Yemen. Op. cit., 71: 39-49, 1 fig.
1933. Leptotyphlops yemenicus sp. n. Op. cit., 72: 165-166, 1 fig.
1942. In the high Yemen. London, Murray, xix+260 pp., illus.
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS-URBANA